Lamar Jackson, University of Louisville’s sophomore quarterback, was declared the 82nd winner of the 2016 Heisman Memorial Trophy, on Saturday, December 10. Jackson became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson, despite some struggles late in the season.
Watson, who finished third last season, was a distant second this year behind Jackson. Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma finished third while his teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook finished fourth. Jabrill Peppers of Michigan finished fifth.
Presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust, this prestigious award annually recognizes the outstanding college football player who displays the pursuit of excellence with integrity through their exceptional performance on the field. Per the official Heisman website, “The winners of the trophy epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work.”
"I'll remember this for the rest of my life," said Jackson upon winning the award. "I'm happy right now. I don't even know what to say."
Jackson explained that he could feel his heart pounding in his chest before his name was called. It was difficult for him to hold his emotions together while giving his acceptance speech, surrounded by the former Heisman winners with him on stage. Raised by single mother Felicia Jones, Jackson credited her and said that the trophy will go anywhere she decides to put it.
Jackson won the Heisman with 2,144 points to Watson’s 1,524 points. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson’s victory ranked at the seventh largest in Heisman history. He also became the youngest winner of the Heisman at 19 years, 337 days old, as well as the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007.
Jackson is the first winner of the Heisman to play on a team that lost its last two games of the regular season since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. Despite mishaps at the end of the regular season with consecutive losses to Houston and Kentucky, when he committed four turnovers, his impressive gameplay before November made it difficult for Heisman voters to deny him the award.
Jackson took a lead in the race to the Heisman early in the season, despite a loaded field of contenders, which included five of the top seven vote-getters from 2015.
Jackson accounted for 51 touchdowns and averaged 410 yards per game in total offence in his first season as Louisville’s full-time starting quarterback. With a total of 4,928 yards, Jackson rushed 234 times for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns and passed for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns.
As a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida, some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Petrino believed that Jackson’s dynamic talent was so special he altered his offense to accommodate his speed and elusiveness; making Louisville his new home.
“He surpassed everything I thought he could do,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino stated.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said he liked the idea of building a statue of Jackson back at Louisville’s home field, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Jackson has another year before the big quest to the NFL comes into question.